Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Christians Can’t do Science

Many atheists charge, “Christians can’t truly be scientists, or even scholars. This is because a Christian’s mind is already closed and committed to certain conclusions. Therefore, a Christian can’t truly be open and responsive to the world of facts and scientific findings.”

There is definitely a danger in this, but all of us have our conditioned biases, paradigms, worldviews, philosophies, presuppositions, and theories through which we filter the data. This is patently obvious. After Erasmus read his brother Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, he boasted:

"In fact, the a priori reasoning [for evolution] is so entirely satisfactory to me that if the facts won’t fit in, why so much worse for the facts. [This} is my feeling." (The Journey, Os Guinness, 154)

Many are so attached to a theory, they feel no problem disregarding with the facts. Nevertheless, theories can either help or impede us in our search for truth. The astronomer Ptolemy promoted geocentricity (earth in the center of the solar system). Consequently, whenever there was new data, it was erroneously interpreted according to his incorrect paradigm. In his case, his theory distorted his vision, bending the facts into conformity with his theory.

However, theories or worldviews can also promote inquiry and the growth of knowledge. In his debate with the ardent atheist Richard Dawkins, John Lennox stated that if the scientific community had taken the Bible’s assertion of a universe-beginning more seriously, it would probably have found evidence to reject the widely accepted Aristotelian idea of an eternal universe much sooner.

Whenever I ride my bicycle, I wear my eyeglasses. Even though they are artificial and come between me and the data of pedestrians crossing the street and taxi doors swinging open in my path, my eyeglasses enable me to see and interpret the data more accurately. A sound worldview can do the same thing. I used to break up the world into “quality people” and “losers.” Although I wanted to belong to the first category, in my heart I knew I was a “loser.” Subsequently, the Bible helped me to understand that we are all losers who need a Redeemer. This shift in worldview helped me to better understand others and, consequently, to predict their actions.

The important question is not whether or not to set a pair of glasses or theories between ourselves and the data, but whether our lens allows us to see reality more accurately. Many Christians testify that the truth of the Bible and God working within them has given them the freedom (John 8:31-32) to truly understand their lives and those of others.

Biographer Jana Tull Steele reports of Duke Ellington:

"He used to say that he had three educations: one from school, one at the pool hall, and one from the Bible. Without the latter, he said, you can’t understand what you learned from the other two places." (Duke Ellington)

Similarly, C.S. Lewis wrote:

"I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun—not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." (Guinness, 27)

This is the essential question: “Does the Biblical lens promote sight or blindness?” Does Christ enable us to do science or does this faith impede science?

The historical testimony in favor of the Christian role in the development of science is overwhelming. British scientist Robert Clark sums it up this way:

"However we may interpret the fact, scientific development has only occurred in Christian culture. The ancients had brains as good as ours. In all civilizations—Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, India, Rome, Persia, China and so on—science developed to a certain point and then stopped. It is easy to argue speculatively that, perhaps, science might have been able to develop in the absence of Christianity, but in fact, it never did. And no wonder. For the non-Christian world believed that there was something ethically wrong about science. In Greece, this conviction was enshrined in the legend of Prometheus, the fire-bearer and prototype scientist who stole fire from heaven, thus incurring the wrath of the gods." (Christian Belief and Science, quoted by Henry F. Schaefer, 14)

Even Richard Dawkins has acknowledged that “science grew out of a religious tradition.” All cultures have their beliefs, but consistently, it is Christianity that has opened closed eyes and liberated captive minds (Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1).

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